Music and language

Musicians and others who have received musical training have advantages over the non-muscial when it comes to hearing language and perceiving individual sounds. In noisy environments, for example, musicians can understand speech better than non-musicians as they’ve been trained to hear individual sounds and tunes within complex musical pieces.

According to a study at Northwestern University in Chicago, hearing and understanding speech in a noisy environment is tricky for everyone, and especially for older people who may have some hearing and memory loss, and also for people with dyslexia and other difficulties with reading. Musical training improves improves our ability to distinguish the pitch, timing and other aspects of sounds, or in other words, improves the tuning of our ears and brain. This is useful not only for perceiving individual elements of complex musical compositions, but also helps us to distinguish speech from background noise.

People who have problems with reading may have a tendency to mishear certain consonants, especially when there’s a lot of background noise. This can result in them misinterpreting and misunderstanding words. Musical training can help solve this problem.

Although the article doesn’t discuss the affects of musical training on foreign language learning, other studies have found that there are some. Musicians’ ability to perceive subtle differences between sounds helps with the pronunciation of foreign languages, and with understanding languages, for example.

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